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No. 361, October 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


SOFTWARE AND INFORMATION SERVICES

Few dot-coms have been more successful than BUY.COM CORP. in attracting financing from SOFTBANK CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 351, December 1998, p. 8). In the third and biggest investment to date by the firm and its affiliates, a syndicate led by SOFTBANK CAPITAL PARTNERS LP purchased $165 million of the Aliso Viejo, California firm's stock. The deal gives the Softbank Group a stake of roughly 31 percent in Buy.Com, which runs seven on- line specialty stores through an e-commerce portal that offer brand-name computer hardware and peripherals, software, books, videos, DVDs, computer games, music and surplus equipment at low prices. Along with the latest cash infusion, Buy.Com and Softbank agreed to bring the Buy.Com business model to Japan as well as to the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.

Two more companies have been added to TRANS COSMOS INC.'s already considerable portfolio of Internet concerns. Its Bellevue, Washington strategic investment and business development unit led an $8.5 million round of follow-up financing for XENOTE, INC. In early 2000, this San Mateo, California Internet company hopes to roll out new services for connecting consumers to the Web. .....TRANS COSMOS INC.'s American investment unit also participated with three new investors and four existing ones in raising $18.8 million of third-round financing for PLACEWARE, INC. The Mountain View, California firm provides Web conferencing software and services that enable corporations to deliver presentations to as many as 1,000 people with just a Web browser and a phone. PlaceWare, which already has signed up more than 240 big-name companies for its services, will use the new money for sales and marketing, branding, product development, partnerships and international expansion.

BEENZ.COM received an additional $20 million in third-round private funding from HIKARI TSUSHIN, INC. and four other investors. The New York City company is the creator of beenz, a Web currency that can be earned by consumers by simply visiting, interacting with or shopping at select Web sites. People then can use their beenz to buy goods and services from participating traders. Hikari Tsushin, the largest distributor of cellular phones in Japan, and beenz.com are talking about a joint venture to launch a Japanese version of beenz.

The leader in the on-line video gaming business, VR-1, INC., also obtained investment funds from HIKARI TSUSHIN, INC. as well as from two other strategic partners in addition to raising $25 million or so in a second round of private placement funding. The Boulder, Colorado company will use part of this money to underwrite R&D on applications for its VR-1 Conductor networking technology that go beyond on-line gaming and to move into the console video game industry. Some of the new funding also will be used to finance VR-1's operations in Japan, where it purchased a video game developer last spring (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 355, April 1999, p. 32).

In the fall of 1996, big materials-handling equipment manufacturer DAIFUKU CO., LTD. bought two automation software companies — AUTO-SOFT CORP. of Salt Lake City, Utah and Bountiful, Utah-based AUTOSIMULATIONS, INC. — so that it could offer customers a complete solution. For reasons that were not disclosed, however, Daifuku has agreed to sell both companies to BROOKS AUTOMATION, INC. The Chelmsford, Massaschusetts firm already is a major supplier of integrated automation solutions for semiconductor, data storage and flat-panel display manufacturers. When the deal is finalized, Brooks will become the top provider of automation software to the semiconductor industry. Daifuku and Brooks plan some type of collaboration in the field of semiconductor factory automation, although the details still must be worked out.

Beta testing is underway of NEC SYSTEMS, INC.'s eBusiness Process Framework. Developed by NEC CORP.'s Boston Technology Center, the system allows companies to integrate via the Internet their external business processes with internal fulfillment processes. eBusiness Process Framework serves as a platform for building and deploying next-generation XML-based business-to-business applications in such areas as supply chain management and customer relationship management. The XML "nerve center" in the framework is supplied by OBJECT DESIGN, INC.'s eXcelon XML e-business information server.

At the same time, San Jose, California-headquar-tered NEC SYSTEMS, INC. released the English-language version of NEC CORP.'s Obbligato II product data management software. Designed for small and midsize manufacturers and product development organizations, Obbligato II comes in three preconfigured packages that provide document management, supply chain optimization and collaborative computer-aided design capability. Each can be implemented separately or together. NEC has been Japan's leading supplier of PDM solutions since 1995.

CANON INC. has moved in the American desktop publishing market with the $90 Canon Publishing Suite. Targeted at computer users of all levels of experience, the package includes Canon Publisher, Canon Draw, Canon Photo Editor, Canon 3D Text, Canon Web Publisher and Canon Screen Grab. Canon Publishing Suite is marketed by Canon Software Publishing, a Costa Mesa, California division of CANON COMPUTER SYSTEMS INC. The unit was formed in 1998 to develop, publish and distribute software primarily in North and South America.

An exchange rate of ¥108=$1.00 was used in this report.

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